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Prepping for life with rights doc

Although rights groups critical of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration have largely accepted that it will be approved at November’s ASEAN summit, they say missteps in its drafting process could still offer lessons for the future.

Greater consultation of civil society and international rights standards will be important to ensure that future work by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) does not discriminate against marginalised groups, rights organisations said yesterday at the end of a workshop on AICHR in Phnom Penh.

“AICHR can do much better than it has done now,” said Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior adviser on ASEAN and human rights for Indonesian NGO coalition HRWG, one of the conference’s organisers.

To promote the rights of all groups without discrimination, a summary statement signed by nine of ASEAN’s 10 member states suggests that in addition to operating more transparently, AICHR should adopt more inclusive hiring practices and aim for at least 50 per cent of its staff to be women.

Wahyuningrum put the likelihood of the contentious Declaration being adopted in November at about “99 per cent”.

“We are fairly disappointed,” she said.

One of Wahyiningrum and other workshop participants’ chief concerns was that the declaration would allow local and national practices to infringe on international rights that ought to be universal.

This slippery slope would threaten not only women but also lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, ethnic minorities and migrant workers, several speakers at the workshop said. 

Wahyuningrum anticipated that after the declaration is adopted, some civil society groups will protest, some will come up with alternative declarations, and some will simply ignore it.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at justine.drennan@phnompenhpost.com

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